BlackBook Archives: In and Around LA With Uffie

It took Uffie three years to finish her debut album. Now that it’s finally done, the Paris-based hip-hop MC takes a much-deserved break to revisit her West Coast hangs (May, 2010). 

“You can’t just pull an album out of your ass,” says Uffie, the 22-year-old rapper, by way of accounting for why it’s taken her three years to finish her first record, next month’s Sex Dreams & Denim Jeans. “The other stuff I’d done was just for fun. I had to find my style, musically, and my artistic confidence.”

Her 2006 EP Pop the Glock brought her to the attention of the international club scene and propelled three years of continuous touring. It was the birth of her daughter Henrietta last October (the father is Parisian graffitist and nightlife player André Saraiva) that finally pushed Uffie to get o the road and into the studio. Once there, she recorded the album’s lead single with Pharrell, her favorite hip-hop artist.

Although being a mother hasn’t tempered the Paris-based singer’s willingness to talk explicitly about sex—on “Pop the Glock,” for example, she calls herself a “badass bitch/ I’m rated X/ I’m gifted/ Ain’t gotta sell sex”—it has changed her entire perspective on life. “Your child is the only person in life you love more than yourself. I don’t want to spend as much time wasting my youth in the clubs. She’s a reason to get up in the morning.”


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Dim Mak Studio

4953 Hollywood Boulevard

This is the office of my friend Steve Aoki’s label, Dim Mak Records. It’s also a store where they sell their merchandise. We play poker here and it’s a general hangout a er shows, especially after this weekly gig on Tuesday nights at CineSpace [6356 Hollywood Boulevard]. The Dim Mak team is a great group and they’re involved in all of the festivals. I met Steve at one of my first gigs at the Winter Music Conference in Miami in 2007 and we’ve been best friends ever since.

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Amoeba Music

6400 Sunset Boulevard

I came here for the first time in 2007. It’s the biggest record shop ever. It’s cool how they have both new and used stuff. It has every kind of music you could want under one roof. I got a Joy Division album here and I like to browse through the hip-hop.

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Skylight Books

1818 North Vermont Avenue

If you’re out shopping at the vintage clothing stores in Los Feliz, you can get a little brainwork in here at the same time. Skylight is my favorite independent bookstore in L.A. It’s intimate and well laid out. Two of my favorite writers are Bret Easton Ellis and Michel Houellebecq. I like contentious, dark stuff.

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Fred 62

1850 North Vermont Avenue

They have a front patio, which is key for me. You can people-watch without being too close to the street. The bright colors and retro-kitsch décor inside are fun. This place has great comfort food, like my favorite, mac ’n’ cheese. I left the U.S. for Hong Kong when I was 4, so I didn’t get to spend ample time in diners as a teenager. I still regret missing out on prom and the whole American college experience.

Photography by Zoey Grossman, Styling by Brett Bailey Makeup: Tsipporah using MAC cosmetics, Hair: Judd Minter using Bumble and Bumble, Stylist Assistant: Danielle Defoe. Second image: Coat by Jeremy Scott, Third image: Jacket by Marni, Fourth Image: Jacket by KTZ, Catsuit by Betsey Johnson, Shoes by Doego Bolcini

Your St. Patrick’s Day NYC Itinerary

This year, St. Patrick’s Day arrives on a Sunday, transforming our day of rest into a day of revelry, as NYers hit the streets covered in shamrock-colored face paint and stuffed with Jameson and Guinness. And New York really makes it all too easy, as bars across Manhattan host massive parties devoted to getting you as buzzed and green-in-the-face as possible. Since navigating the subway system may overwhelm the day’s thought processes, I’ve gathered the city’s best parties into a neat, walk-able, almost-charming itinerary. So print it out, stick it on your fridge, carry it in your pocket, and fuel up for a day of nonstop mischief.

First stop: sideBAR for an all-green breakfast.
Our favorite Seuss book comes to life at upscale sportsbar sideBAR, where green eggs, pancakes, bagels, and Lucky Charms are the requisite, pre-drinking morning fuel. Alas, the breakfast is called “Kegs & Eggs,” which means this event gets dynamic quick, offering up to eight green Bud Light drafts, and getting you buzzed by noon. Starts 9am, $24. Info here.

Second stop: Bounce Sporting Club for their themed Sunday Funday party.
Green sparklers & bottle service, rotating DJs,  and an all Jameson whiskey-infused menu kick off your official St. Patrick’s celebration with class and crazy at Bounce’s weekly “Sunday Funday” party. Pick up the banana Jameson shots, Just the Tip cocktail with peach puree, and – if you already need some reviving – the Slumpbuster cocktail with Jameson, Bailey’s, Kaluha, and restorative espresso. Starts noon. Info here.

Third Stop: The Windsor for pastrami spring rolls, corned beef, & Guinness cupcakes.
Snack time. Head to the West Village or Gansevoort Park locations of upscale sportsbar The Windsor for their special pastrami spring rolls, corned beef, and Guinness chocolate cupcake with Bailey’s buttercream, served in a jar. All day till 4am. Info here.

Fourth Stop: Fiddlesticks for the casual, pub experience.
Ireland’s best NY bar, this pub holds all the Irish charm you envision for the big day: outdoor tables, a packed bar full of loud Irishmen, Gelic lettering and décor, filthy bathrooms. Fiddlesticks is king. Till 2am. Info here.

Fifth Stop: Lavo for a wild dance party.
You’ll need a cab to this Midtown East club, but it’s worth it: do the Irish jig with sexy dancers on top of your table – Lavo style – at the themed Riviera Sundays weekly party. DJ Yacine spins, while your world starts to also.

Sixth Stop: Your bed.
Well done. Now go to sleep – or get lucky. It’s the Irish way.

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Itinerary: A Brooklyn Travelogue With Matt Young and Kenny Vasoli of Vacationer

It’s an unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon. I am en route to Clinton Hill, Brooklyn after a pleasant jaunt up to Washington Heights, where I discussed life, love, babies, and new beginnings with an old friend. The day has already begun to transform into one that I will later recognize as a defining moment of 2013. I am about to meet up with Matt Young and Kenny Vasoli of the band Vacationer. Their debut album, Gone, is a soothing journey inward from start to finish. I dove into it months ago with a couple friends while upstate contemplating life’s choices and the paths we were all on. Gone played for 48 hours straight on surround sound and penetrated our minds in ways only the individual experiencing it would understand. The doors were wide open with no intention of closing, the grass was plush, and the sky was the clearest blue I may have ever seen. Summer had begun.

Now a near seven months after that weekend, I am about to embark on yet another journey with Vacationer as they pass through town and gear up to play a sold-out show at Bowery Ballroom. Their tour—in support of Niki and the Dove—began earlier in the week and extends through the rest of the month. The idea of alone time when in constant motion is almost unfathomable, and so, in an effort to not allow the band to sit still, together we set out to explore our city surroundings and dive into what makes Vacationer chill out.

Brooklyn Public House, 2:05 PM

247 Dekalb Ave., Brooklyn, NY, 347-227-8976

I’m with producer Matt Young at the quaint Brooklyn Public House in Fort Greene. We secure a booth while we wait for lead singer and bassist Kenny Vasoli. Young is fresh off a red-eye flight from Las Vegas where he was doing a series of promotional events with his other project, Body Language. Having lived in the neighborhood for two years, Young enjoys spending his winter months in this fine establishment: "They did a really good job at capturing the vibe of a true English pub,” he tells me. “It’s never too packed out or too loud—it’s just really cozy and nice. They have a really great beer selection and velvet wallpaper.” While I was off stroking said velvet, Vasoli arrives frazzled and “in a tizzy." Twenty-eight-years old-and standing at a delicate 5’8” frame, he carries an aura of coy, youthful sensitivity. I notice a single round band-aid under his right eye. Excited, and with a tinge of hesitation, he mentions, "A lot of this is going to be a learning experience,” an indication that he isn’t too familiar with the borough. Kenny settles into the booth alongside Young; they are reuniting for the first time in 2013.

Brooklyn Promenade, 2:45 PM

The afternoon has shifted to show Vasoli a new side of Brooklyn. In a quick decision moment, Young directs our cab driver to the Brooklyn Promenade. "It’s really beautiful this time of year,” Young explains. “You can always catch a really good sunset." We arrive and head down toward to the water, but sadly, there is no visible sunset today; the day is beautifully gray, and lower Manhattan is enveloped in a thick fog. The Brooklyn Bridge is prominent in our eye line. We pause to stare at the wondrous city, fixating on a skyline many look out to and envision their dreams, future, and endless possibilities. A self-proclaimed “homebody,” residing in northern Philadelphia—where he has lived his whole life—Vasoli shows little inclination of plans to move. "I like New York being a place I can weave in and out of when I need to," he says

Zombie Hut, 3:15 PM

273 Smith St., Brooklyn, NY, 718-875-3433

Standing on a random corner near the BQE overpass, there’s an awkward moment while we figure out our next move. Eventually, we make our way to Zombie Hut, a Tiki-themed bar in the heart of Carroll Gardens. The bar is dimly lit and the music is blaring like a Manhattan nightclub at those familiar drunken hours. It’s a little too early for the flaming fishbowls they are known for, but Young throws caution to the wind orders a Mai Tai. "Out of all the places in Brooklyn this is probably the most analogous to the mood we were going for with Vacationer,” Young says. “A lot of the records that we drew inspiration from were 1950s and ’60s Tiki Hawaiian records." I ask what factors played a part in bringing them together, to which Vasoli tells me his friend and former band mate Matt Watts—with whom he played alongside in pop punk outfit The Startling Line—sent over a list of bands that were making electronic music in Brooklyn. “I wanted to do something different, sort of a hybrid indie-electronic record, and Body Language was on that list,” he says. “It was really the only music that I gravitated toward. I reached out to them and had a blind date session.” Young interjects, “The first day, we already had a track and it was just uphill from there.” In what, I gather, is a longing for Vasoli to break out of the mold he’s inadvertently been put in amidst “the scene” and catch the next wave of life, he says, "I have such a great time doing this, especially after going and playing a bunch of shows with The Starting Line. It’s like going from a cold pool to a hot tub."

Grand Morelos, 4:00 PM

727 Grand St., Brooklyn, NY, 718-218-9441

The temperature is dropping and the sky is turning deep charcoal. We swiftly jump into a cab and head to Willamsburg. We’re exchanging New Year’s stories when Young flashes back to a moment in the wee hours of 2013 at a 24-hour Mexican diner, Grand Morelos. “It was six AM. This place was my last stop, and it was packed. People were yelling ‘Tacos! Tacos! Tacos!’ During the day it’s really relaxed, and after midnight it’s just a zoo.” Bouncing off the topic of New Year’s, I’m curious to know if there was one defining moment in 2012 that they’re carrying into the new year, and what they’re most excited for in the coming months.

Young chimes in first. “Iceland was really amazing, it was the first time that band has gotten out of the country.” Vasoli adds, “I’ve had such a charmed year: the record came out, we started touring in the incubation of Vacationer. It’s been a red-letter year for us. I still can’t believe it. It seems like every time I think, ‘Oh, that’s really cool that that happened, there’s no way it can get topped.’ And then Matt, our manager, calls me every week with something new that’s always really exciting.” The two then mention that 2013 will have them writing new material—hopefully, bringing a new album to our ears.

Noorman’s Kil, 5:15 PM

609 Grand St., Brooklyn, NY, 347-384-2526

Our time together is winding down and we end with an evening cap at Noorman’s Kil. The walls are lined with the widest selection of whiskey any of us have ever seen. Vasoli is reminded of a Breaking Bad episode where they were drinking one of his favorite spirits, Whistlepig. Young deems himself a whiskey enthusiast. “Last time I was in here, I had a Pappy Van Winkle,” he says. “It was amazing, just so smooth.” The two peruse the hefty menu and land on a Mitcher’s Rye. We order three and cheer to a delightful day. They need to be heading to the venue soon but sip their drinks casually. Kenny, impressed by the atmosphere, chuckles, “This is my kind of place. I’m gonna get into drinking more, become a big drinker." We finish off our round and head to Bowery Ballroom. I thank them and part ways upon arriving as they unload for sound check. 

Bowery Ballroom, 9:30 PM

6 Delancey St., New York, NY, 212-533-2111

Vacationer takes the stage. Vasoli’s nervous energy has seemingly diminished. He stands out in a bright red shirt while the band bleeds into the deep blue lights. He’s no stranger to the stage, exuding a confidence that reads as if he knows this is exactly where he belongs. While watching the, now full five-piece, I realize Vacationer is more than just band—it’s a passion. It’s a group of individuals coming together with the same drive to live out their dreams. It’s become clear to me that I too am exactly where I needed to be and that all of my potential is also unfolding. I’m reminded of an earlier conversation about "sympathetic oscillation"—the scientific law that theorizes: any medium pulsating at their natural pitch will simultaneously oscillate with the same frequency. We are consistently weaving in and out of places, even through friends each at our own pace. But it’s in those moments, in those encounters, where we pulse at the same speed, that we learn something about ourselves to carry us onto the next level or phase of our lives. A wave of gratitude comes over me and I thank the universe for how the day had unfolded, at which point Vasoli invites the crowd to “take a dive off the chill coaster” and join him in paradise. 

Follow Lorenna Gomez-Sanchez on Twitter

Your DC Inauguration Weekend Guide

Feels like just yesterday, huh? Well now we’re gonna do it all again. But better. Regardless of your stance on the election, the inauguration of Obama on Monday, January 21st is a good opportunity to head to DC, drink like you just got out of prison, and conquer the city’s top brunch and dinner places like a viking. Yeah, I want you to live it up. Not just because you only live once yadda yadda, but also because you paid good money for that train/bus/flight to be in the nation’s civic hub, so your weekend better be great. And with this Inauguration guide, it certainly will be.

Follow Bonnie on Twitter here

THIS WEEKEND: Your Wacky & Delicious NYC Hanukkah Itinerary

Step aside, Christmas and New Year’s. Starting tomorrow and for the next eight days, there’s a big kid in town who’s ready to revel in his blue-colored spotlight. And based upon the crazy, sexy, and delicious Hanukkah events we’ve gathered for this weekly column, the “Festival of Lights” might as well be called the “Festival of Bites,” or the “Festival of Half-Naked Jewish Women” – depending on how you look at it. So go, eat latkes and jelly doughnuts, listen to a comedian kvetch, and oogle at some Hanukkah hotties. That’s the spirit.

FRIDAY THE 7TH:

  • Alright, so Hanukkah doesn’t officially start today, but why not start celebrating early?  Go out with like-minded folk somewhere (Murray Hill) and swap holiday stories over a rosemary cocktail at the ‘hood’s only non-beer hall, non-sportsbar: The Archive. Then head over to nearby Jewish legend 2nd Ave. Deli before midnight for a nightcap pastrami sandwich.

SATURDAY THE 8TH:

  • Usher in the holiday with some good-hearted kvetchy comedian monologues and Jewish identity crisis brought to you by Jackie Hoffman, comedian and Broadway star who most recently started in the macabre musical The Addams Family. In her second-annual off-Broadway show A Chanukah Carol, Hoffman is forced to reexamine her own life when she is visited by the Ghosts of Chanukah Past, Present, and Future, and oh crap this sounds familiar…Show is at New World Stages (340 W. 50th St.), 8pm, $39.50. Running every Fri. and Sat. until Dec. 29th. All the details here.
  • After the show, head to recently-opened UWS location of The Smith for some comfort food, where you can discuss the renewed significance of Tiny Tim over the American brasserie’s baked pretzel and famously decadent and sensational mac ‘n’ cheese. All the inside-info on The Smith here.

SUNDAY THE 9TH:

  • Start your second day of Hanukkah off right with a mouthful of jelly doughnuts and a two-and-a-half hour Hanukkah walk through the Lower  East Side. Led by the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy, the tour will visit the LES’ historic synagogues and include free jelly doughnuts, coffee, and Jewish history you can proudly share with family at the dinner table later.
  • As mentioned in our weekly HUMP DAY article,Hanukkah hotness hits Highline Ballroom,when Jewish international burlesque duo The Schlep Sisters hold a pageant-style show where eight Hanukkah hopefuls vie for a spot in the very-exclusive Menorah Horah Royalty. Retro swimsuits and dreidel and latke songs included. Who will compete? Who will win the crown? I’m schvitzing just thinking about it. Bring your JDateShow is at Highline Ballroom, 6pm, $25. All the details here. All the inside-info on Highline Ballroom here.
  • Conclude your celebratory Hanukkah weekend at the city’s only modern Jewish-American bistro: Kutsher’s Tribeca.  Their popular “Eight Nights of Latkes” menu offers a different latke every night, such as their pastrami smoked duck with sour cherry, chili-cured belly lox and cream cheese, and peking duck. Oy vey. See the Hanukkah menu here. All the inside-info on Kutsher’s here.

Follow Bonnie on Twitter here

THIS WEEKEND: Your NYC Holiday Event Itinerary

It’s the beginning of December, which means now marks the time we transform into mushy, gushy, "oh my gosh! twinkling lights! I like Christmas cookies!" New Yorkers. And as we metamorphosize, it’s best we stick with like-minded events and like-minded people. So we’ve gathered this weekend’s top holiday events in NYC. Eat, drink, watch santa slasher movies, watch competitive jump-ropers – but please, make sure you’re your cynical, picky, self-deprecating self next year. No one likes an overtly emotional and sensitive New Yorker. 

FRIDAY THE 30TH:

  •  With the 55’ Bryant Park Christmas tree just lit this week, now is the perfect time to grab a decadent hot chocolate from one of the holiday shops, and marvel at the wonder that is spruce trees and colored lights. When you’re done, have some spicy salmon and eel rolls at what is considered one of the best sushi spots in Manhattan: Sushi Yasuda.
  • Santa slasher movies – they do exist. And Nitehawk Cinema honors the best of ‘em at its midnight screening of Silent Night, Deadly Night, the 1984 film where a toy-store Santa Clause goes on a rampage and axes people to death. Temper the crushing of your jolly Santa visions with a spiked hot bourbon cider and pretzel-crusted Nitehawk chocolate bar. 12:15am, $11. Also playing Saturday the 1st. All the details here.

SATURDAY THE 1ST:

  • Can’t decide which version of A Christmas Carol is your favorite? See them all at The Paley Center’s Christmas Carols: A Scrooge Mash-Up, where the classic story will be told using clips from a variety of versions starring Patrick Stewart, Mr. Magoo, and the animated casts of The Flinstones and Bugs Bunny. After, sit down to a cheese plate and rich mac ‘n’ cheese at our favorite Midtown West nook: cheese and wine cafe Casellula2pm show, $5-$10. Running till Dec. 31st. All the details here.

SUNDAY THE 2ND:

  • Jump-roping game Double Dutch gets festive and competitive at its 21st Annual Double Dutch Holiday Classic performance at the legendary Apollo Theater, where international students compete in one of the world’s largest jump roping contests. Expect lots of jumping, sweat, and tears, all to the tune of holiday music. 1pm-4pm, $22. All the details here.
  • Get toasty as Brooklyn’s famous pizza spot Roberta’s gets crafty with its Third Annual Beer Masters Winter Classic at Greenpoint bar Warsaw, which is just a fancy title for “massive beer competition.” Twelve teams of pros from Eataly, Bushwick bar Tutu’s, and more face-off in beer games like beer pong and ten-legged races, all inspired by the ’06 boozy comedy film Beerfest. The best part: three-dollar Roberta’s slices and beers from Warsaw are making an appearance allll day. 1pm-10pm, FREE. All the details here.

Rachael Harris’s Top Los Angeles Spots

Ohio native Rachael Harris has made us laugh in roles that range from the raunchy (The Hangover) to the family-friendly (Diary of a Wimpy Kid). Now she’s turned dramatic in the South by Southwest hit Natural Selection. Her role as an unhappy evangelical wife earned her a breakthrough performance award at the festival, and when film critic Roger Ebert screened the movie at his Ebertfest 2011, he bestowed upon Harris the coveted Golden Thumb award. But at home, Harris is notably low-key. Her tour of Los Angeles reflects a fondness for mellow, intimate destinations. She prefers familiar locales where she can still run into friends, whether that’s a vintage boutique owned by her neighbor or an eatery where she bumps into fellow funny people like Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel. Even in the big city, Harris exudes small town charm.

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DECADES INC
8214 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA (323) 655-1960


I love the owner, Cameron, and everyone who works here. He is a true fashion historian and has a collection of dresses from the ‘40s and ‘50s. He also happens to be my neighbor. I’m not a big fashion person, but what I like about decades is that most of the vintage silhouettes fit me better. I don’t have a model body, and I feel like it’s appreciated here. There’s something I like about the fact that every dress has some story to it.

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Mustard Seed Café
1948 Hillhurst Avenue, Los Angeles, CA
(323) 660-0670


I love coming here for a quick lunch. The turkey burger salad is my favorite; it has actual pickles, and they serve it with ketchup and mustard or balsamic vinaigrette. I’ve been known on Sunday mornings to order my breakfast in my pajamas, get in my car, run in with a jacket over me, and then get my breakfast and bring it back home, to sit and eat with my dogs.

 

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Little Dom’s
2128 Hillhurst Avenue, Los Angeles, CA
(323) 661-0055


This little brother of Dominic’s on Beverly has a real neighborhood feel. I always see someone I know when I come here. They also make the best meatloaf in Los Angeles. Wednesday night is “flight night,” and they have three different wines that you can taste. The bartenders are not snobby and very knowledgeable. I just feel really comfortable here. It’s great for first dates; it’s not too busy and you can really talk to someone.

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ArcLight Cinemas
6360 W. Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA
(323) 464-4226


You pick your seat before you go to this movie theater. I print out my tickets at home and walk into the movie knowing exactly where I sit. It’s the most comfortable thing next to being home and watching a movie. ArcLight takes filmmakers seriously enough to take care in how they project the films. I can go to a movie by myself, which I’ve done many, many times, and I don’t care.
It’s such a not-lonely place.

 

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Griffith Observatory
4730 Crystal Springs Drive, Los Angeles, CA
(323) 913-4688


The dome is super iconic, and it’s always where I take out-of- town guests to see the sunset. But the planetarium show is my favorite thing because it makes me feel like I’m going back for a high school field trip to the Center of Science and Industry
in Columbus, Ohio. I like the knowledge that I’m not the center of the universe. There’s other shit going on. If you don’t want to go to the observatory, it’s a dealbreaker.

New York Valentine’s Day Itineraries for Every Couple & Scenario

So you’re single; or you’ve been in the same relationship for years; or you keep hooking up with your ex/best friend/ neighbor who has a stocked pantry and a really good view. Who cares! Valentine’s Day is for lovin’, and no matter the state of your romantic affairs, you deserve a rendezvous-filled good night. We’ve compiled the ideal itinerary for every kind of date – satisfaction guaranteed.

Friends with Benefits:

  • Westminster Dog Show: Who needs roses and a box of assorted chocolates? Get delivery, jump into bed, turn on your TV, and admire some good looking hounds at the second longest-running sporting event in the country. Whether you’re anticipating the debut of the Icelandic sheepdog, rooting for the Brittany Spaniel, or easily amused by the dog handlers’ two-piece ‘80s suits, this show is a good respite from the overwrought romance and drama that is Valentine’s Day –  and a real relationship.
  • HiChristina (Mad) Love at First Sight: Enter a Victorian parlor, and run around and mingle with wandering iconic personalities like Don Juan, Marilyn Monroe, and Shakespeare. Get a sugar-high from the hand-made chocolates being passed around and join a parlor game of show and tell that just might surprise you both. 

Blind Date:

  • Cedric the Entertainer’s Valentine’s Day Show: Laugh away the awkwardness with the star of Barbershop and Spike Lee’s The Original Kings of ComedyHis show at the Beacon Theatre will serve as perfect fodder for the post-show meal, and will be a better gauge of one another’s sense of humor than the 17th question on OkCupid’s match questionnaire.
  • Buttermilk Channel: Find some comfort in the food at this lauded Carroll Gardens spot that specializes in all things butter, waffles, and pecan pie. With its three-course prix-fixe menu, you and your new friend can delight in duck meatloaf with bittersweet chocolate-duck jus, fried chicken with cheddar waffles, pie, and barbecued oysters – an aphrodisiac.  

Single:

  • Never Sleep Alone: Alright, so you might be happily on your own, but who can say no to a show that’s designed to hook you up? In this appropriately named performance by sexual psychologist and music therapist Dr. Alex Schiller at Joe’s Pub, the Dr. dispenses advice from her book Get Laid or Die Trying, performs some sex-infused pop songs, and encourages mingling between all the rows and legions of single people in attendance. If you’re feeling timid, just sign up for the more expensive “voyeur” seat in the back and watch the action unfold.
  • New York’s Largest Singles Anti-Valentine’s Day Party: Chat and drink with over 150 like-minded folks at Stitch, a two-tiered classy lounge that was once a garment showroom.  Wash down the free hors d’oeuvres (from 7:30pm-8:30pm) with Happy Hour drink specials, and enter your name for door prizes and weekend getaways. Oh, and maybe network. And meet someone.

Second date:

  • Romance Under the Stars: So it’s your second date and you still hardly know each other. Amp up the flirting with a night of getting cozy under the stars at the Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium. Stay toasty inside with a 90-minute open bar of champagne and cocktails, a performance by the Josh Rutner Quartet, and epicurean bites like chocolate truffles and baby artichoke and chanterelle tartlets. Listen to the romantic stories based on the mythology of the stars, and begin to create your own.
  • BAM’s screening of The Shop Around the Corner: Before the AOL-inspired You’ve Got Mail, there was this 1940s flick about two gift shop employees who unknowingly fall for one another through the mail as each other’s pen pals. Jump into the nostalgia of the pre-Twitter days, and enjoy the sweetness of another couple’s budding relationship. 

Long-term relationship:

  • Aphrodisiacs & Amor: Skip the long and expensive dinner routine, and opt for this blindfolded tasting feast at Shag Brooklyn. With an aphrodisiac-riddled menu prepared by Food Network-featured Nuevo Latino chef Alex Garcia, you two will tease and titillate your taste buds as you take turns blindfolding one another and indulging in the unseen, never-before-tasted foods of love. Play on!
  • Filthy Gorgeous Burlesque: Any show spotlighting half-naked, ornately-garnished women and men stripping, singing, and telling suggestive tales is sure to keep the passion flowing throughout your night. Plus, the New York City Burlesque Choir is performing, which is basically the older, half-naked version of the choir you were in in high school. It’s good to return to your roots. 

Italy’s Back Roads: 5 Unique Travel Itineraries

It’s the job of travel sites and agents to point out the best places to eat, drink, shop, and sleep, but rarely do we see the best back roads make it onto the agenda. Accordingly, travel aficionado Tom Hale, bored with typical modes of exploration, founded Backroads, an active travel company devoted to creating rewarding alternatives that include the best possible biking, walking, and multisport trips around the globe.

“Active travel is, at its heart, a way of connecting more authentically with the world,” he says. He’s tapped a team of people that share his passion, including Jeff Cantarutti, Italy’s Regional Manager. Here, Cantarutti shares five of his favorite walks around Italy.

Cantarutti has a deep-rooted passion for Italian heritage—his father was twice knighted by Italy’s government for his efforts to promote Italian culture in the US. “I can show up at the homes of my Italian cousins anytime,” he says, “and thanks to the local friendships I’ve cultivated over the years, our trips have an authenticity that can’t be matched.” In fact, Cantarutti has been at it for 21 years: uncovering inviting lanes, tracks, and trails, and developing friendships with local chefs, vintners, historians and hoteliers—all of whom are eager to share their passions with travelers. “One of the best ways to see Italy,” he explains, “is on foot—it’s shaped like a boot after all!” He designed five Backroads walking trips, with 53 departures between mid-April and mid-October. Travelers choose premiere or casual lodging, and can modify what they see and do to their own tastes and with Jeff’s recommendations. Here are Jeff’s five favorite ways to “walk” Italy.

Amalfi Coast Starting in the southwest, revel in the realm of Italy’s elite. It includes strolls through lemon orchards, access to private terraced gardens high above the Mediterranean. The views from the decadent villa-hotels come with top-notch service. There’s fresh seafood everywhere, to go along with the “million-euro” views of Capri’s limestone peaks. To top it all off, Jeff works with local celebrity chef Mamma Agata to create an evening of authentic Neapolitan cuisine and cooking demonstrations. Picks:Hotel Caesar Augustus for the unmatched views of Capri, and incredible service. ●Villa San Michele for its beautiful Mediterranean gardens amid the villa, which dates back to the 19th century when Swedish physician, writer and recreational archaeologist, Axel Munthe, adjudicated the ancient roman construction site, to display his collection of relics and classical artifacts—the head of the Medusa, the bust of Emperor Tiberius, and the magnificent Egyptian sphinx—all on display here. ●Boat ride along the Costiera Amalfitana to behold an outstanding example of a Mediterranean landscape that has been landmarked by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre to help protect and preserve it’s rural beauty. ●Sorrento’s nearby mountains for scenic picnic spot. image About the Amalfi Coast: Costiera Amalfitana, as it’s called in Italian, is a stretch of coastline that begins at southern side of the Sorrentine Peninsula and extends to Positano, in the west, all the way to Vietri sul Mare in the east. Salerno is its main town, and the town of Positano was lauded for it’s scenic landscape and beautiful towns by John Steinbeck in his famed short story published in Harper’s Bazaar in 1953,Positano.

Cinque Terre & Chianti Farther north, enjoy the stunning Liguria coastline, as well as classic Tuscany. The cliffside walks link picturesque villages and rural beauty. Ambling through the cypress-flanked trails you’ll discover archetypal towns perched on hilltops. Arresting scenery is paired with melt-in-your-mouth pesto and branzino, not to be outdone by those gorgeous, sun-drenched vineyards offering oenophiles celebrated Ligurian whites and Tuscan reds. Picks: ●The ancient stone walls of Riomaggiore to marvel at the work of several generations and thousands of years of work put into building more than eight million cubic meters of sandstone walls that run throughout the Cinque Terre. Riomaggiore also has an mysterious stone castello, which was first documented in the mid-500s describing the impressive structure back then as “ancient.” ●Greve in Chianti for local delicacies and the region’s best wines at a renowned Enoteca Fuoripiazza. ● Ancient town of Radda in Chianti for the best balsamic vinegar. ● Volpaia, the medieval village-turned-winery for wines and oils amid ancient houses, churches, and underground passages. image About Cinque Terre: Its name means “The Five Lands,” and is composed of, yes, five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The area is part of the Cinque Terre National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so you wont find any “modern” coastal additions. About Chianti: You’ve most likely had a classic Chianti wine, which comes from this namesake wine region in Tuscany, near Florence and Siena. The region is divided in seven sub-areas: Classico, Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colline Pisane, Colli Senesi, Montalbano and Rùfina.

Tuscany Moving inland, Tuscany focuses on the undulating tracks past grape vines and gnarled olive trees. Spend nights in lavish hotels, and experience unforgettable Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti Classico. You’ll immerse yourself in the classic medieval hill towns, including Radda, where you meet Fabrizio, who knows it “come la sua tasca” (like his own pocket), and take cooking lessons with a local chef. Picks:Palazzo Leopoldo for stylish guest rooms with original frescoes in this 14th-century townhouse located in the heart of the Chianti region. Felsina vineyards for feast of Tuscan specialties in a private home tucked away in this award-winning vineyard. ●Castello di Tornano for the spectacular vineyards and orchards in this castle from the 10th-century which produces its own label of wine and grappa. ●Relais Borgo Scopeto for the luxury: this traditional and elegant Tuscan estate is nestled among vineyards and olive trees and overlooks Siena. It was owned by the Sienese cathedral in the 1200s. image About Tuscany: Known for its beautiful landscapes, unique culinary tradition, artistic legacy, and influence on high culture, Tuscany is regarded as the true birthplace of the Italian Renaissance—and you’ll find this heritage in every aspect of the sprawling central region.

Lake District Approaching the Alps, the Lake District is an adventure in an often overlooked, gorgeous region of Italy. Lakeside trails and mountain paths reveal elaborate gardens, frescoed hamlets, castle ruins and breathtaking scenery, including staggering views from Monte Mottarone, a cable car that hangs 4,000 feet above Lakes Orta and Maggiore. The area is complimented by superb picnics, unforgettable local dinners and wine tastings, and stylish villas. Picks: ●Old Benedictine monastery on Isola San Giulio for the quiet bike lanes and paths around the medieval hamlet of Orta San Giulio, and frequently the site of Christian pilgrimages. ●Villa Crespi in Orta San Giulio for incredible lake views from a Moorish-influenced villa built in the 1800s by a successful cotton trader. It boasts intricately patterned floors, and frescoed ceilings. ●Grand Hotel des Iles Borromées in Stresa to visit the setting of part of Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms located on lake Maggiore. ●Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio for a Neo-classical retreat built in 1872 for an aristocratic family from Milan. The lakeside villa glimmers with marble, frescoes and Murano chandeliers. image About the Lake District The Italian Lake District features Lake Como, Lake Lugano and Lake Maggiore sitting quietly among the Swiss and Italian Alps in northern Italy.

The Dolomites Heading east, the Dolomites feature Michelin-starred cuisine and views of jagged, snowcapped cliffs. Hike and take chairlifts as you make your way into grassy meadows, fairy-tale villages, pine forests, and cozy alpine huts that serve up piping-hot spaghetti al ragu and vino rosso. The distinctly Italian town of Cortina is filled with sweeping pastures of wildflowers, majestic cliffs, and gondola rides—all that spell classic alpine. Picks:Castel Colonna, a13th-century Gothic castle located atop the Sciliar Massif mountain for an uncommon picnic with uncommon views. ● Puez-Odle Natural Park to spy chamois, mountain pheasants, eagles, and marmots on the way to Crespeina Pass to take in the stunning Marmolada Glacier. ● Romantik Hotel Turm in Fiè allo Sciliar for delicious regional cuisine prepared by proprietor and renowned chef Stefan Pramstrahler in his 13th-century hotel decorated in the local Tyrolean-style décor. ● Hotel La Perla in Corvara for a stay in a charming chalet-style lodge with classic timber construction and a Michelin-starred restaurant. ● Cristallo Hotel in Cortina d’Ampezzo for a seriously luxurious say in this elegant hotel, which has hosted countless dignitaries and famous people, including Leo Tolstoy since it was built in 1901. image About the Dolomites: The Dolomite range is located in north-eastern Italy, and is part of Southern Limestone Alps that extends from the River Adige in the west to the Piave Valley in the east. The area is known for its hiking, and many climb the Vie ferrate, which were protected paths created during the World War I. The “Alte vie” (or, high paths) are long distance footpaths that run across the Dolomites and require at least a week to be walked through.